A tale of two classes

October 25, 2021

In recent years, the growing anger and discontent of the working class has reached its height. The main reason of this discontent is the widening disconnect between the ruling elite and the working...

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In recent years, the growing anger and discontent of the working class has reached its height. The main reason of this discontent is the widening disconnect between the ruling elite and the working class and the sharp divides between the economic and political interests of the ruling elite and the needs and wants of workers.

There is a democratic deficit in society. Members of the ruling class still go to voters after every four or five years to get them to vote for them, but that changes little for the people.

There is a consensus among the elite that austerity cuts and attacks on the welfare state and democratic rights of workers will continue. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between different mainstream political parties on the basis of their economic programmes. They use different slogans that happen to have the same meaning.

This democratic deficit is undermining the democratic process, political leadership and governments. The arrogance and indifferent attitude of the ruling elite towards economic and social problems faced by the working class has alienated them.

The ruling elite are not ready to give up the neoliberal agenda and policies which enormously benefited them to grow their power and wealth. In the last 40 years, the elite have enormously grown their economic and political power, wealth, and social control through the neoliberal agenda.

The elite have amassed this power and wealth at the expense of the working and middle classes. So the growing disconnect is not surprising at all. In some countries, people are openly expressing their anger and discontent through street protests against the existing economic and social conditions. In many countries, this anger and frustration hasn’t yet taken the shape of protests or mass movements. But anger and disconnect is growing everywhere.

This is the direct result of the neoliberal free market economic policies and agenda implemented by the elite around the world. The gap between the economic policies of the ruling elite and the realities of an overwhelming majority of the world population has increased. The rich live in their own world. They have created islands of prosperity, wealth and luxury far away from the sea of poverty, unemployment, inequality, low wages, hunger and falling standards of living.

The rich say that the neoliberal free market economy is working perfectly well to further and protect their interests. This is why they wonder why people oppose such economic model and policies. They are the real winners in a neoliberal economy.

Pakistan is no exception. The Pakistani ruling elite is following the same global trend. The sentiments expressed by different representatives of the Pakistani ruling elite through public statements clearly reflect this.

One needs to see the statement of Governor State Bank of Pakistan Reza Baqir regarding the free fall of the Pakistani currency and the rise in the dollar value, in this context. This statement clearly manifests the existing disconnect between the Pakistan ruling elite and the working class.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a tweet a couple of days ago, said that the PTI government has improved the living standards of people and they are well off and prosper now as compare to 2018.

The PTI government’s ministers, economic managers and spokespersons continue to claim that the economy is heading in the right direction and that soon people will feel the positive impacts of economic growth.

While countless public surveys have revealed that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani people thinks that the economy is heading in the wrong direction, one wonders why the sentiments of the people are different from those of government ministers and economic managers. Why does this huge gap exist?

This gap in sentiments is not difficult to understand. The elite and ordinary people live in two completely different worlds. Their everyday realities are different. Both are speaking the truth and talking about their realities.

For the elite, the economy is doing fine. Their profits have increased. Their wealth is growing. The rich and their economic mangers are optimistic because for them the economy is thriving as they are making more profits. The economy of the ruling elite is not in crisis. Every government, including the PTI’s -- in what seems as if they’re representing the ruling elite -- happily bail them out when they find themselves in the middle of a financial crisis.

So when they say people are well off and more prosperous than three years ago, they are not telling lies but are only describing the reality that exists around them. On their own island, rich people are well off and more prosperous. They are enjoying all the luxuries of the world. But such people are only a few.

The working class, on the other hand, is facing economic hardships and problems caused by neoliberal economic policies. These policies have failed to solve the basic problems faced by workers and the poor. They are not getting the fruit of economic growth.

There is a sea of poverty, unemployment and hunger, and a lack of housing, education, health and other services and necessities of life.

People’s incomes are not rising with the constant rise in prices of basic commodities and services. With the recent tsunami of price hikes, they have been forced to choose between eating proper meals and buying medicines.

They are forced to cut back on their food bills to buy other basic everyday items. They have to make a choice between sending their children to school and allowing them to work at workshops, hotels or houses to earn some money.

A small group of the rich controls our lives. It decides our wages and our living and working conditions. And yet they are not ready to accept the simple fact that the flawed policies and exploitative and repressive nature of their economic and social system has created the conditions in which poverty, inequality, exploitation and deprivation have flourished.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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